20 Feb 2015

Out of Order: Why Gerrard should apologise for 'disrespecting' €20m LFC star

Amongst Liverpool fans, Steven Gerrard is a living legend, and after 17 years of brilliance for the club, he's earned the right to have whatever opinion he likes about the club. However, legend or not, Gerrard also has a history of ill-advised public statements, and he was at it again last night with his misguided comments about Mario Balotelli.

Reacting to the Besiktas penalty row, Gerrard conceded that Balotelli scored an 'important' goal, but went on to needlessly criticise the Italian. He told ITV Sport:

“It’s not nice to see when footballers are arguing. Mario has been a bit mischievous. Jordan is the captain and Mario showed Jordan a bit of disrespect there. Rules are in place for a reason.”

Gerrard is entitled to his opinion - which may even be partially correct - but he's displayed a breathtaking lack of self-awareness here, and in my view, he's totally out of line:

* Balotelli is one of Gerrard's current team-mates; any criticism should take place behind closed doors, not in front of huge national TV audience.

* Gerrard has form for this type of thing. Just read his book, wherein he criticises a whole host ex-Reds, including El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao, both of whom were still Gerrard's team-mates upon publication of the book.

* As the club captain, he should know that criticising Balotelli will just create a tornado of negative media coverage and whip up even more anti-Balotelli sentiment. For the media, Christmas has come early, and Gerrard is Santa Claus.

* The only person being 'disrespected' here is Balotelli. Gerrard should've backed him, or at least followed the same line as Brendan Rodgers ('LFC won the game, so who cares'), but instead, he stuck the knife in, and created a whirlwind of negative headlines.

* Balotelli is only human, and I'm sure Gerrard's words will hurt a little. The Italian hates the media, and Gerrard - who's supposed to be on the same team - has basically fanned the flames of negativity, which will mean Balotelli is subject to even more media pressure.

* It seems to me that Gerrard fatally misjudged the general mood of the fanbase. Due to the antipathy towards Balotelli, he probably thought he could get away with throwing the striker under the bus, but it's heartening to see that lots of fans have rejected Gerrard's comments and made clear their irritation with the skipper's decision to break ranks.

* On a related note, why was Gerrard even in a TV studio? He's not retired yet; he's still a Liverpool player, so why is he putting himself in a position where he may have to be critical of his own team?

Gerrard is supposed to be Liverpool's captain, but is this captain-like behaviour? Not in the slightest. Leaders don't behave this way; leaders solve problems behind closed doors, and in this instance, Gerrard abjectly failed as a leader. As such, he should do the decent thing and apologise to Balotelli.

To avoid the possibility of situations like this, Rodgers should institute a rule that bars current players from being pundits/co-commentators for Liverpool's games. It's just asking for trouble, and this incident underlines that once again.

Non-LFC games are a different story, though. I'm sure most fans have no problem with Gerrard slating Chelsea or Man United players, so let him loose on their games ;-)

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